If you can keep your head when one is crowning,
And be peaceful when all is going well;
If you can swim against the tide that’s drowning
So many people under profit’s swell;

If you can hear the fear among the nervous,
And tell a tear will trickle sometime soon;
If you can see yourself in lifelong service,
Yet save that special family afternoon;

If your wisdom can comfort many mothers;
If you hold the wrinkled hand, brand new or old;
And do so much to help so many others,
And keep the secrets you alone are told;

If you can tell that every life’s a story,
And listen close to hear the common strains;
If you can face the grim, the gross, the gory;
And often cure, but always ease the pain;

If you can deal with chaos and with humdrum,
Finding every day a new way you can grow;
If you know the community you come from,
Yet sometimes simply say just, “I don’t know”;

If you can fill the asystolic minute
With 10 cc’s of IV bicarb run;
Then walk out to the waiting room and in it
Share the failure of everything you’ve done;

If you can talk with calm and walk with power,
Treat common people with uncommon care;
If you see change as springtime’s future flower;
Yet keep the faith to which you’re honored heir;

If you can help with everybody’s illness,
And share the power knowledge can unlock;
If you can fill long silences with stillness,
Then you will know that you’re a Family Doc.

William R. Phillips, MD, MPH

See the original published poem.

Copyright © 2003 WR Phillips. Originally published in: Phillips WR. If. Family Practice Management. 2004 Jan;11(1):80.

Posted in Verse | Leave a comment

A Public Celebration of a Personal Doctor

Abstract – The life of a family doctor is engaged with the people, families, and community he or she serves. Caring changes lives. Yet, we seldom have the opportunity to hear the gratitude or to reflect upon the privilege. In this essay, two family doctors share the experience of seeing a community celebrate the life of their doctor. In these public reflections on their personal doctor, folks reveal how he saw their needs, understood their fears, and partnered with them to create futures. Their stories are compelling evidence that personal doctoring is alive and well and held deeply in the heart of America.

Read the essay


“Transitions test our strengths, weaknesses, and values. For a family those times are often birth, marriage, illness, and death.”

“He’d look at you and know, but still
Would stop and listen anyway.
Everyone was important and everything
Held meaning. Patiently organizing the
Details, he caught the wonder and the mystery.”

“Dr. John had become part of the landscape, and the geography of the town just changed.”

“… a professional life full of challenges met and promises kept, of more successes than failures, more fulfillments than regrets.”

“…years of service, days (and some nights) of caring, and moments of tenderness.”

“… Personal doctors, living in the community and practicing among people they know, can base their medicine on evidence that is richer than randomized clinical trials.”

Read the essay

Please comment and share.

Copyright © 2010 Annals of Family Medicine, Inc. Originally published in:
 Phillips WR, Green LA. A public celebration of a personal doctor. Annals of Family Medicine. 2010 Jul-Aug;8(4):362-5.

Republished in the anthology: Gotler RS, ed. The Wonder and the Mystery: 10 Years of Reflections from the Annals of Family Medicine. London, UK: Radcliffe Publishing; 2013. ISBN 9781846199820

Read about the book. How to order.

For more information on the anthology, see: Gotler RS. The Wonder and the Mystery: Your Voices, Your Stories. Ann Fam Med. 2013;11(3):205-206.

Posted in Essays, Stories | 1 Comment